Added Value at the end of line – Lincoln Navigator

With next year’s all-new Navigator having been announced, Lincoln is throwing in a whole slew of extras into the current Navigator

Photography: Elvis John Ferrao

We got an opportunity to test the lincoln Navigator and almost turned it down because we had done our test of the 2015 model in March last year, with its new 3.5-litre Ecoboost engine and new exterior treatment. This year the car is being sold with the reserve package which adds in leather wrapped IP, armrests and gearshift lever, adds premium Zircote wood trim and premium leather on all three rows of seats and gives the car 22-inch polished aluminium alloy wheels.

So what were the key points we noted last year?

So, what exactly is the refreshed 2015 Lincoln Navigator? Did Ford go the whole nine yards with its top-of-the-line model? Not exactly. The 2015 Navigator is based on the seven-year-old body-on-frame platform with mostly unchanged exterior dimensions. Depending on markets, it is offered with standard and long wheel base variants. The car’s sheetmetal is mostly carried over. However, there are exceptions as there is evidence of the new styling DNA up front and at the rear. Prominent among them instantly noted are the bonnet, front face and the tailgate. Up front, the family-look split-wing grille has been skillfully applied to accommodate a truck that now stylistically falls in line with most of the refreshed or new Lincoln models. There’s a new interpretation of the Lincoln split wing grille with horizontal matt chrome effect bars, modern HID headlamps with LED accents. The rear end design treatment isn’t as modern as the front due to structural restrictions, but designers have managed to include a LED taillamp assembly. Overall, considering the profile, proportions and stance, there’s a nice feel about this morphing is that it has blended very nicely and doesn’t appear as a hastily done cut-and-paste job.

Inside, the cabin layout remains as before but detailing and functional elements like the dashboard and instruments have been redesigned. There’s a bit of the Taurus influence out here with its swanky instrumentation and complex information displays. Driver gets a new steering wheel and leather upholstery extends to all three rows. The car also benefits from Ford-Microsoft’s second generation SYNC infotainment and My Lincoln Touch systems. The latter set-up uses traditional rotary knobs for radio tuning, rather than the previous touch switches and this brings in a nice touch of subtle modernity to the cabin. However, the air-conditioning controls are touch-sensitive. Meanwhile, Lincoln’s current electronic architecture is unable to support modern day features like active cruise control or lane-keeping assist which are beginning to show up in this category of vehicles more often than before.

In terms of space for occupants, the Navigator has always been popular with its users. Although the external dimensions of the car haven’t changed, Licoln is confident that its big utility will continue to be best in class in terms of interior volume and practical amenities like folding flat seats [second/third row]. Although the climb to that third row is a little awkward, optional motorised running boards (that retract when the vehicle is in motion) and the abundance of headroom once inside certainly help with this technical challenge.

As with any refresh, the key differences in corporate philosophy comes clear in the engineering of any car. For this Lincoln model more than cosmetic upgrades, the focus has been in the departments of performance, handling and as befits a luxury classed vehicle, its ride quality.

According to Lincoln, the outgoing V8 offered 310hp and 365lb-ft of torque, whereas the twin-turbo V6 offers at least 370hp and 430 lb-ft [gains of 5hp and 10 lb-ft over what the engine currently makes in the Ford F-150]. Power is transferred via a carryover six-speed automatic in the all-wheel drive test car which came with driver selectable high/low range features [4×4, 4×2, autoselect etc].

The biggest news for this car comes in the ride department. The refreshed Navigator now arrives with a new suspension system which uses continuously controlled damping (CCD). The fast reacting system monitors road conditions and various parameters using an array of sensors to update shock absorber damping every two milliseconds. CCD offers three driver- select presets: normal, sport, and comforts. Complementing the new suspension, driver also gets a new electric power steering system. Newly designed larger 20in aluminum alloy wheels now replace the 18in wheels of the outgoing Navigator, with 22-inch on the Reserve package.

Driving impressions

Given the hardware that underpins this luxo-barge which is a derivative of current Ford F-150 the body-on-frame architecture along with an active suspension and torquey new engine which is controlled by an electronically module that includes electrically assisted steering and optional adaptive dampers [which can be set to Normal, Comfort, or, um, Sport modes], this large car does well in the acceleration department and the torque delivery and gear holding ability was at its best noted both during the uphill/downhill Qantab roads. The car maintains the previous Navigator’s personality, offering a quiet cabin and a smooth ride quality, which has vastly improved and so has the car’s swaying tendencies. Since it is a large and heavy vehicle, it is expected to wallow, but body roll is checked efficiently, especially during roundabout manoeuvring. The luxury SUV knows it is not a sports SUV and hence sticks to its original role play sincerely. The steering weight is pretty good and the weight of the vehicle is not felt. Turn-in is good despite the bigger wheel set-up and few found it quite handy in tight car parks. The reverse camera is useful, but it doesn’t show the trajectories. The SatNav operation was Ford standard. Off- road, we had the choice of engaging the 4×4 systems and there’s plenty of torque available in low range to tackle most trail drives. Also the car’s ground clearance and modest arrival and departure angles ensure that it can go on the beach without damage to undercarriage or valance.

Verdict

Going by the market sentiments, it’s no secret that the Cadillac dominates the large luxury SUV segment with other brands/models trying to catch up. In fact, it owes Lincoln a big thank-you for reviving the category back in 1997 with the Navigator. With Lincoln’s marketshare compared with GM in this category being much smaller, it was hard for Ford to justify unlimited investments in making bigger and bolder changes for the updated 2015 Navigator. And given the circumstances and what Lincoln has set out to achieve, we think it has a better chance to score.

With seating for up to eight, a towing capacity and a starting price of just under OMR 34,000, there are few vehicles like the Navigator in the market. And then you have the latest Ecoboost [direct injection with turbocharging] V6 engine technology under the bonnet which guarantees the best of both worlds – contemporary luxury and performance in one family package.

About Raj Warrior
Raj Warrior is the managing editor of Automan Magazine and has been a part of the Middle East’s automotive landscape from the past 15 years. He has run top rung car magazines in India and Oman and is often referred to as the Automan of Oman. With a background in mechanics, mechanisms and software programming, he is able to visualise the intricate workings of the modern automobile and brings a mix of technical and lifestyle based assessment to his writing. He is also an avid Photographer, often shooting the cars and motorcycles he tests for the magazine. As comfortable on a motorcycle as he is in cars, Raj is driven by his love affair with all things on wheels and brings his passion to all his automotive ventures. Raj has chosen Oman as his home base because he loves the country, its friendly people and its great driving and riding roads.

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